PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - The bowl season is underway for Nebraska and Rutgers. It’s either win or face the prospect of missing the postseason.
Coming off a win over previously undefeated Michigan State, Nebraska (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) will visit High Point Solutions Stadium for the first time to face Rutgers (3-6, 1-5) on Saturday.
Rutgers, the birthplace of college football, has been to a bowl game nine of the last 10 years. Nebraska has played in 51 bowls, third all-time behind Texas (53) and Alabama (62). The Cornhuskers have played in bowl games in 44 of 46 seasons.
Nebraska is breaking in first-year coach Mike Riley after Bo Pelini was fired last year following a nine-win campaign. Embattled Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is in his fourth year with questions whether he’ll get a fifth following a season that has featured player dismissals and a three-game suspension for contacting a professor about a player’s grade.
“We’re all human. We’re going to talk about it, but our main focus is to be 1-0. That’s all you can think about it,” Rutgers senior captain Quentin Gause said. “You think too far ahead, you get unfocused. You want to focus on one game at a time to get to where we want to go. “
Nebraska players have been talking about a three-game season, starting with the upset over now No. 14 Michigan State.
“We’ve got one under our belt and we’re continuing to fight for larger things like a bowl bid. We’ve got Rutgers coming up, second game of our three-game season,” defensive tackle Kevin Maurice said. “Now it’s a two-game season.”
There are 80 bowl slots to fill. If there are not enough bowl slots to fill with teams that are at least 6-6, a 5-7 team with a top-five APR (Academic Progress Rate) could be selected.
RECIEVER IN QUESTION: Rutgers offense needs a boost and it could come from its top playmaker Leonte Carroo. The star receiver missed the past two games with a lower body injury. He is listed as questionable this week. The All-Big Ten receiver has only played 15 of 36 quarters this season due to injury and suspensions, yet has nine of Rutgers’ 14 touchdown receptions.
IT’S BEEN A WHILE: This will be the first time Nebraska has visited New Jersey since beating West Virginia 31-0 in the 1994 Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands. New Jersey was fertile recruiting territory for Nebraska under Tom Osborne from the 1970s through the ‘90s. The Huskers haven’t had a player from the state since defensive back D.J. Singleton of Jersey City in 2013. “We want to capitalize on all those kinds of connections and we’ll sure use Nebraska’s history in recruiting there,” Riley said.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Nebraska has gone 1-3 on the road with their only win at Minnesota while losing at Miami, Illinois and Purdue. Nebraska is .500 or better in their first four seasons in the Big Ten. The Huskers need a win at Rutgers to go 2-2 on the road in the Big Ten. Nebraska is 11-8 overall in Big Ten road games since joining the league in 2011.
FLOOD STICKING WITH LAVIANO: Flood is sticking with quarterback Chris Laviano despite poor performances the past three games. LSU transfer Hayden Rettig could see action if the struggles continue. Laviano started the season well, completing a conference leading 69.3 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games. In the last three games, he has completed roughly 42 percent of his passes for 81.7 yards per game, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES: Rutgers defense has allowed 1,441 yards and 146 points (48.7 per game) in losing to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan. Opponents have scored 14 touchdowns in 20 trips in the redzone. “We just have to finish more and get guys on the ground.I just feel like it’s an effort thing,” linebacker Kaiwan Lewis said.
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